Few lead characters this year will be as intriguing as the warrior at the centre of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s brutal Valhalla Rising. Sporting a horrendous scar where his left eye used to be and not saying a word throughout the duration of the movie, One-Eye (Mikkelsen) is a captivating presence from the outset.
It’s lucky the protagonist has such magnetism because he has to prop up a flimsy plot. It’s AD 1000 and for years One-Eye has been held captive by a Norse chieftain. After slaughtering his captors he sets off with a boy called Are (Stevenson) and the pair join a group of Christian Vikings on a crusade to the Holy Land. Following a torturous boat journey, they arrive in a place where solitude, fatigue and religious zeal takes their toll.
Much like its main character, Valhalla Rising is pensive and, at times, extremely violent. Visually, it’s breathtaking with Refn wisely using the Scottish Highlands as a dramatic backdrop. Where the director messes up though, is with the pace of the film; Valhalla Rising plods along self-importantly and doesn’t make the most of its seriously cool anti-hero.
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson
Good for: Those with a strong stomach.
PIERRE DE VILLIERS